New York Giants: Sean Lee

So yeah. Took a little vacation time last week. Relaxed, unplugged, all that good stuff. Figured I'd catch up on the New York Giants when I got back to work this morning, see who got the latest drug suspension, stuff like that...

Wait. Jon Beason broke his foot in organized team activities?

Well, that's not good.

The team-issued prognosis indicates Beason will certainly miss all of training camp and quite possible the season opener as he heals, and that's a blow. The Giants finally invest in a linebacker and he breaks his foot in OTAs. Can't make this stuff up.

We've written and talked a lot about Beason as a team leader, which he was instantly upon arrival from Carolina last October, and that's going to be difficult to replace. His intelligence and his ability to get and keep things organized from play-to-play in the front seven was something that stood out. He also played quite well, showing surprising speed, good instincts for the ball and a toughness that helped fortify those leadership credentials. When your teammates see you, as a 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker, willing to take on a 300-pound offensive tackle in the open field, that gets their attention. The Giants will miss Beason for however long he's out and will be eager to get him back as soon as possible.

Meantime, who plays middle linebacker? The options don't look fantastic. Mark Herzlich has played it, but not so well that the team didn't feel the need to go out and get Beason last year. Rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard apparently worked in Beason's place last week after the injury, but that'd be a lot to ask of a rookie fifth-rounder. Jameel McClain, signed from the Ravens to play one of the outside linebacker spots, said two weeks ago he's been working alongside Beason and helping make the calls. But McClain doesn't profile as a three-down playmaker on the inside.

If you want to look on the bright side, it's easy to say that they were able to fix a middle linebacker problem last year by trading a seventh-rounder for Beason, and that there will be options on the market for a good price. But the Cowboys have been looking for the same thing since Sean Lee got hurt a few weeks back, and they haven't turned up much. The Giants got a real gem in Beason and are unlikely to replicate that success if they have to go out on the market and find a replacement for him this year.

Big Blue Morning: Good sign for Brown

December, 26, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants:

The news of the day: The Giants held a "jog-thru" on Wednesday, as opposed to a full practice, so the injury report only projects the extent to which injured players would or would not have participated in a real practice. The report did list running backs Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis as limited participants, though, and that has to be counted as a good sign for their progress in recovery from their respective concussions and their chances to be available to play Sunday. The league's concussion protocol mandates various tests throughout the week, so it could be a few days before either is fully cleared to play. The Giants also placed safety Cooper Taylor on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and signed guard Eric Herman from their practice squad. Guard David Diehl was listed as a limited participant and guard Brandon Mosley did not practice due to a broken hand, so the Giants need coverage at that spot.

Behind enemy lines: Giants left tackle Will Beatty had a terrible time with Redskins pass-rusher Brian Orakpo in the Week 13 game in Washington. Beatty swore after that game that things would be different the next time he got a shot at Orakpo, but that may not come this week after all. Orakpo is dealing with a groin strain and may not play in Sunday's season finale at MetLife Stadium. He was listed as a limited participant on Washington's simulated injury report Wednesday.

Around the division: The Cowboys will need a miracle, or perhaps a series of them, to avoid losing their third straight Week 17 NFC East title game Sunday night. Already without quarterback Tony Romo due to a back injury, they're also going to continue to be without perpetually injured middle linebacker Sean Lee.

Around the league: In case you missed it, enjoy the final MVP Watch column of the 2013 season. I did have a blast writing it all year, and I hope it brought some non-Giants sunshine into your week every now and then.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Having evidently received the message about how annoyed his coach was by his missing practice last Wednesday to have an abdominal injury examined, Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was back on the practice field Wednesday. Nicks, who was inactive for Sunday's loss to the Cowboys, was listed Wednesday as a "limited" practice participant, so it's no sure thing he plays Sunday night in Washington. But if he practices again today and Friday, it's likely he'll be good to go. Cornerback Corey Webster also was "limited," and with Trumaine McBride missing practice due to a groin injury, there's a chance Webster could see some action on the outside Sunday if he can shake off his ankle problem. Jason Pierre-Paul didn't practice, and it sounds as though his shoulder problem is going to limit him for the rest of the year. Tom Coughlin was asked if he thought Pierre-Paul could return to full strength by season's end, and he said, "That is questionable."

Behind enemy lines: The Redskins' season has come to this: Quarterback Robert Griffin III defending his father's presence in the locker room. RG II apparently wandered in there late Monday night to check on the status of his prospects for grandchildren in light of one very specific hit (or kick) RG III took in the game.

Around the division: The Cowboys play today, as they do every Thanksgiving, and will attempt to take a temporary half-game lead in the NFC East. They'll try to beat the Oakland Raiders without injured linebacker Sean Lee and a couple of other key guys on defense.

Around the league: This is a worthwhile read from Kevin Seifert on the idea that lack of depth is a greater problem for NFL teams than is a preponderance of injuries, real or perceived.

W2W4: Giants vs. Cowboys

November, 23, 2013
A Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was the first of six straight defeats to open the New York Giants' season. Since that 0-6 start, the Giants have won four in a row to move a game behind the second-place Cowboys in the NFC East. Revenge for the season opener, as well as their still-flickering hopes of a historic comeback, is on the Giants' minds as they prepare to host the Cowboys at 4:25 pm ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are some things to look for if you're heading or tuning in to the game.

Prince Amukamara vs. Dez. Bryant: Amukamara, the Giants' top cornerback, is likely to draw the bulk of the assignment of stopping Bryant, the Cowboys' dynamic top wide receiver. Bryant had just 22 yards on four catches in the opener, largely because the Giants were able to double-team him for most of the game. But rookie Terrance Williams hadn't established himself as a major threat yet, and the Giants may have to adjust due to Williams' improvement and Miles Austin's anticipated return from a hamstring injury. That could leave Amukamara against Bryant one-on-one in some instances, and it will be important for Amukamara to be able to win the physical matchup downfield against Bryant. Amukamara doesn't mind getting physical with receivers, but Bryant is as tough a challenge as any this side of Detroit.

Is this the week for the passing game? Eli Manning had his best game since the opener Sunday, and the Cowboys are allowing a league-high 313 passing yards per game this year. That bodes well for Manning and a wide receiving corps that saw three different guys eclipse the 100-yard mark in Week 1. Questions surround the health of Hakeem Nicks, who doesn't have a touchdown catch all year. But if he can play and the receiving corps is at full strength, this could be the best chance yet for Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle to return to that Week 1 form.

Lacking Lee: Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is out for this game with a hamstring injury, and the significance of that is not lost on the Giants. Running back Andre Brown called Lee "the quarterback of their defense." Lee is an instinctive sideline-to-sideline difference-maker whose absence should offer the Giants greater opportunity in the run game and in the short passing game.

Rattling Romo: The Giants sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo twice in the opener, but their pass rush wasn't clicking the way it has been lately. Since they play Romo twice a year, the Giants know he's able to extend plays with his feet, and they will work to pressure him without letting him escape the pocket. It'll be a tougher test for a defense that has built the current four-game win streak against lesser quarterbacks.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: The Giants return to work to look at tape on Packers third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, about whom they know little if anything in advance of his start against them Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The players on the Giants' defense have begun to feel good enough about themselves to believe they can handle anyone. They say they're not going into games thinking about limiting damage anymore, but instead thinking about shutting teams out.

Behind enemy lines: Here's our man Matt Williamson's scouting report on Tolzien, who Matt says won't be afraid to try tough throws and could have an opportunity to hit some plays downfield if the Giants key on the Packers' vastly improved running game.

Around the division: The Dallas Cowboys are off this week before facing the Giants in Week 12, but the bye may not be enough to get them healthy on defense. They'll surely be without linebacker Sean Lee, who's probably the best player on their team and is out for a few weeks with a pulled hamstring. Fellow starting linebacker Justin Durant is also out for that game, and it remains to be seen whether the Cowboys' defense can expect to get linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher back in time for the Giants game. Big mess down there in Big D.

Around the league: No, I do not expect the Giants to try to sign veteran safety Ed Reed following his release from the Texans. From what little I've seen, my impression is that Reed is done or close to it. And safety is one of the positions at which the Giants actually look very good, with Antrel Rolle and Will Hill and Ryan Mundy. They have no cap room and bigger problems. If Reed could play center, that'd be one thing.

Breaking down the Giants' run game

September, 12, 2012

Something's got to give. On Sunday, the New York Giants, who had the worst rush offense in the NFL last year, host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had the league's worst rush defense. I don't know what this means, but from the standpoint of this blog we have to say it offers the Giants a very good chance to get their run game going and put last year's troubles in the past.

To assess their chances, I consulted the NFL's Game Rewind app, which this year offers users the chance to watch the "All 22" coaches film and see where everybody goes on every play. Pretty useful stuff that should offer plenty of chances for great blog fodder as the year goes along. Here are a few things I learned about the Giants' run game watching it today.

    • Of the 19 run plays the Giants ran against the Cowboys in last Wednesday's opener, 11 went to the left side, seven to the right side and one up the middle (Ahmad Bradshaw's 5-yarder on 3rd-and-16 to end the first half).


  • Of those 19 run plays, 11 were on first down, five were on second down, two on third and one on fourth. Bradshaw's biggest run was a 33-yarder on 3rd-and-1 that was a very well blocked play to the side of the line on which the Giants did not have extra blockers. More on that in a second.
  • Bradshaw ran the ball 17 times. Rookie David Wilson ran it twice, and not at all after fumbling on his second carry. No other Giants running back got a carry in the game.
  • Of the 19 runs, 13 were run to the side of the line on which tight end Martellus Bennett was lined up. That includes the first 10 Giants running plays of the game. The first time Bradshaw runs to the side on which Bennett is not lined up is a 2-yard gain to the right side in the second quarter, and on that play tackle Will Beatty was in the game on the right side as an eligible tight end. The play is basically stopped immediately by Anthony Spencer when he gets off the block of Beatty.
  • Right tackle David Diehl had a rough game against Dallas defensive end Jason Hatcher. On the final play of the first half, the Cowboys have only three men on the line and Bradshaw gets the ball and runs right up the middle, but Diehl can't handle Hatcher, who brings Bradshaw down before he can get loose. Not that they were trying to do anything special there, but you never know.
  • There are times when Bradshaw shows indecisiveness and a lack of burst that costs him. The play just before the Wilson fumble is a 1st-and-10 on which Bennett motions to the right and Bradshaw runs that way. There appears to be a hole between Bennett and Diehl on that right side, but Bradshaw is unable to slip through before it closes. That play looked like one on which Bradshaw could have gained more. There's also a 1st-and-10 in the fourth quarter on which he's running to the right side, where Bennett and fellow tight end Bear Pascoe are both lined up, and he seems to have a brief opportunity to turn upfield quickly before Bruce Carter fills the gap and brings him down.
  • Once they started running away from Bennett's side, the Giants actually had more success. I don't know if this is because Dallas was devoting extra attention to Bennett's side (which would make sense, after the Giants ran their first 10 plays to Bennett's side) or if it's a matter of Dallas focusing more energy on pass defense once they had the lead. But Bennett is on the right side when Bradshaw runs left for a 10-yard touchdown to the left. The touchdown is a very well-blocked play that involves no tight ends. Left guard Kevin Boothe shoves the defensive lineman inside and then blocks Sean Lee. Left tackle Sean Locklear takes care of his man. Fullback Henry Hynoski, lined up in front of Bradshaw in the backfield, swings over and makes his block. Hakeem Nicks is trying to make a block near the goal line as Bradshaw jukes the defensive back and slips into the end zone. Good play all-around, and without extra blockers on that side.
  • The other very well-blocked play is Bradshaw's 33-yard run to the right in the fourth quarter. Bennett is lined up on the left side on that play, and Dallas is committing most of its defense to that side. But Diehl blocks his man while right guard Chris Snee gets out and makes a very nice block on DeMarcus Ware to spring Bradshaw for the one big gain of the day in the run game.
  • I need to make special note of the Wilson fumble play, which is all Sean Lee. The Giants load up on the left side with Bennett and Hynoski, and they get everybody blocked and make a nice little bubble for Wilson on that left side. But Lee, who is lined up as the far-side inside linebacker on that play (i.e., the side away from the side to which the play is run), makes an incredible quick and instinctive jump on the ball, slips past all of the engaged blockers and defenders and closes on Wilson with remarkable speed. Wilson of course needs to hold onto the ball, but he is completely blindsided on a brilliant play by a player who got there much quicker than anyone on the field could have had reason to expect him to.


I guess my conclusion is that I'd like to see more Wilson. I understand the benching and agree with it, but it does seem, going forward, as though Wilson is better suited to make a big gain out of the minimal blocking the Giants can expect at this point from their offensive line. There are more plays on which they don't block well than plays on which they do, but Bradshaw seems to be doing a poor job of taking advantage of the latter. They're giving him a lot of help by committing extra blockers to the side of the field to which he's running, and he's still not able to find anything. That may be the offensive line's fault most of the time, but it's not all the time.